#2 Lifelong Learning & L2

‘Thing’ number 2 on the original PLCMC list is “Discover a few  pointers from lifelong learners and learn how to nurture your own learning process.”  This is a deceptively simple task that asks people to think about why and how we continue to learn throughout life.  The exercise is to view an online tutorial about the 7 ½ habits of highly successful lifelong learners.  The reflective part of this exercise is deciding which of those habits is easiest and hardest personally.

I highly recommend viewing the online tutorial.  It’s just under 15 minutes long and is designed to make you think about learning goals and obstacles.  If you’d rather just skip to the list of habits, here they are:

1. Begin with the end in mind

2. Accept responsibility for your own learning

3. View problems as challenges

4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner

5. Create your own learning toolbox

6. Use technology to your advantage

7. Teach / mentor others

7½. Play!

The tutorial goes into these habits in much more detail.  For me the hardest of these habits is number 1 – begin with the end in mind.  I love learning and playing but have a tendency to flit from subject to subject.  The internet is often my downfall here as I will read something intending to find out about a particular subject and then a phrase mentioned will prompt me to search for new information or click a link to another page.  Before I know it I’ve started down a new path altogether and the original subject has been abandoned.  I find blogging a particularly useful tool in tackling this problem.  A goal in your mind, or scribbled on a piece of paper is easily abandoned.  A goal that you have stated to the world online in writing… not so easy to forget, especially if people read and comment on that goal!  Maybe I should create a blog for all those tasks that get easily abandoned, does “Sarah’s housework blog” sound tempting?

Deciding which habit was the easiest took a little longer, but I think ‘accept responsibility for your own learning’ just about wins although ‘play’ comes a very close second.  When I train people I always find it most difficult to train those who want to be spoon fed information.  Not because I resent doing the feeding, it’s usually easier to give simple step by step directions than to answer the difficult questions and challenges that more active learners can come up with, but because it’s so different to the way I learn personally.  If I want to learn how to use something I will read the instructions and play.  If there are no instructions or they don’t answer my questions I will then ask specific questions, usually by searching online!  I’m the first to admit that this makes me an impatient learner.  As any of my music teachers or driving instructors can testify, I am not a fan of practising and learning practical skills that do not come naturally.  This means I have great respect for people who spend a lifetime perfecting a particular skill… and a certain amount of envy for everyone who has passed their driving test!

On a less personal note here are some other thoughts from the tutorial.

“Take pride in your learning or accomplishments”.  At school we had a ‘record of achievement’ that we were encouraged to fill with certificates and other records of academic accomplishment.  Achievement records are often used in formal learning to track goals and results but how many people have a lifelong ‘record of achievement’?  Carrying out staff appraisals every year it is surprising how often people will say that they haven’t really achieved anything or learned anything just because they haven’t been on a course.  Once we start to talk about what has happened generally in the department or service they start to realise how much they have actually achieved and having those achievements written down and recognised can be really encouraging (I hope!).  Unfortunately these formal records tend to be filed away and forgotten.  The original Learning 2.0 programme asked participants to start a blog and write posts about what they had learned and how it affected them.  Blogging can be great way of recording achievements, simple and life-changing, and sharing those achievements with the world.  Although many of the blogs started for Learning 2.0 programmes seem to be abandoned after (or even during) the programme I’d be interested to know how the process of charting and sharing achievement helped people to feel proud of that achievement and encouraged them to go on learning.  Every year we see a huge number of children enthusiastically take part in the summer reading challenge.  What makes this challenge more appealing than just borrowing books from the library?  Recording every book read and having that achievement acknowledged by others and being encouraged to take pride in that achievement.  If libraries are expected to take a lead in encouraging lifelong learning then could they have a role to play in helping people to record and take pride in that learning whatever form it may take?  I sense a whole new blog post coming out of that idea…

“Determine a goal and develop a plan to achieve that goal.”  I’ve already mentioned that this is the habit I find most difficult.  There are so many things to learn and if you’re not doing a specific course it can be difficult to take a goal through to completion.  The tutorial recommends writing a learning contract which seemed a little OTT to me until I looked at what they included in this contract and why.  The contract included ‘obstacles I may face and how I will overcome them’; things needed for a personal learning toolbox; details of people to ask for help and finally a signature.  The tutorial pointed out that we sign ourselves over to many different things but never to ourselves and by signing something we represent the fact that we are making a commitment.  Not sure just clicking an ‘I agree’ box can replace a signature on this one!  But certainly making a goal public and signing a name to that goal could be a way of making a public commitment.

A short tutorial has triggered all sorts of ideas and challenged me to think about my own personal learning style and habits.  Why not watch it and see what learning habits you have?

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